Deer Season: Drive Safely

White-tailed deer are on the move as breeding season is here. Drivers may expect to see increased numbers of the deer on and near roadways. Fairfax County crash data indicates that there have been almost 400 reportable deer-vehicle collisions in the past five years. Deer movements and behaviors are unpredictable and deer-vehicle collisions are a serious public safety concern.

According to a September 2015 State Farm report, Virginia has the 10th highest rate in the nation for deer-vehicle collisions. The odds that a Virginia driver will have an insurance claim in 2015 as the result of a deer-vehicle collision is 1 out of 97. In 2014, contractors picked up over 1,100 deer carcasses on county roadways. This year, almost 900 have been picked up, so far.

Approximately one-half or more of all deer-vehicle collisions generally occur during the months of October, November, and December.  Deer are especially active pre-dawn to mid-morning and dusk to early evening. These periods of activity correspond with the time when many Fairfax County residents are commuting to and from work or school. Fairfax County Police urge motorists to drive cautiously during this time and be on the lookout for deer crossing roadways.

Deer-vehicle collisions can cause extensive damage/injury.

Deer-vehicle collisions can cause extensive damage/injury.

The Fairfax County Wildlife Management Specialist and Fairfax County Police urge motorists to be alert, drive with caution and remember these safety tips:

  • Always drive the posted speed limit.
    Always wear your seat belt when in a vehicle.
  • When driving, particularly at dusk and dawn, slow down and be attentive.
  • Watch for eye shine along roadsides. Deer travel in herds. If you see one, others may be near.
  • Use high beams when traffic permits to spot deer at a greater distance.
  • Be aware of posted “Deer Crossing” signs. Signs are placed in areas known for high deer traffic and/or deer-vehicle collisions.
  • If a deer is stopped in the roadway, reduce speed and flash your headlights. Deer can become mesmerized or blinded by bright steady lights.
  • If a deer jumps in your vehicle’s path, continue to reduce speed and grasp steering wheel firmly with both hands.
  • Never swerve to avoid deer on the road. Swerving can cause loss of control of your vehicle and greatly increase the chance of more serious damage or injury.
  • Take foot off brake at time of impact. This action reduces the likelihood of deer crashing through a windshield or windows upon impact.
  • Never depend on hood whistles, car horns, or other devices to scare deer out of your path. Several studies have shown that these methods do not always work.

If a deer is injured or killed, immediately report the collision to the Fairfax County Police Department (non-emergency) at 703-691-2131.